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Meryl Ainslie

November 17, 2011

Silver Casts.  Wall, Ellis Island Step, Broom Stitching

Meryl Ainslie’s  small, quiet works have a profundity that belies their diminutive size, addressing issues of value, beauty, legacy and scale.  Based on detailed observation of her surroundings her work is about experience rather than mere recording of an image.  “I see drawing as a period of time and not a moment in time`’ During a recent boat trip in Croatia she made sketchbook drawings of rocks and crevices. Drawn on the move, sight-size, these finely observed studies extend across the paper occasionally continuing on to the next page.

Croatia Sketchbook Drawing


 India Cochin 10.5 X 15cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA 17A Boat Stitch

In the last few years Ainslie has travelled extensively, India, Croatia, America, but it is indicative of the intimacy of her work that she journeys just as far in her imagination within the confines of the family farm in Wiltshire where she lives and works. It is the nature of her response to the tiny unremarkable things that she encounters that links these places. Her response to place, is immensely significant.  The physical act of drawing locks her into a particular time and location far more so than if she had taken a photograph. “ When you make a drawing you remember the experience of the place”.


Croatia Sketchbook Concertina

 Guggenheim NY 10.5 X 25cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA36

Her sketchbooks are multi sensory containing 2D and 3D drawings, combining pencil, wash, pigment, self adhesive polaroids, and collected objects.  Tucked into the back of each sketchbook are pieces of prepared paper.  Japanese waxy tissue, squared paper, card, pieces of ‘found’ paper, many primed with gesso. Proper gesso, she is keen to point out, made with rabbit skin glue which provides a beautiful sensuous surface. “I like to work on a prepared surface. It is to do with the quality of the mark, particularly with brush drawings”. In India she also sources 18th century document paper, which is still used locally for miniatures. Sometimes she takes little brown envelopes with her which not only provide a drawing surface, but also portable storage for her treasure trove of findings and,  “I just quite like the way a brown envelope knocks the colour back a tiny bit”. She is drawn to investigate anything which catches her eye. Often something just at the periphery of her vision and which appears to have no value whatsoever. She takes impressions of objects, surfaces: a door stud, a seed head, the claw of a dead songbird. These are then cast in silver using a lost wax process. One of her most emotive objects is a cast of part of the bottom tread of the stairs at Ellis Island, a step on which millions of immigrants trod on their way into America. This translation of ostensibly insignificant objects into items of worth is part of her process of investigation into what makes something precious apart from the obvious aspect of monetary value.

Ellis Island Leaders NY 10.5 X 25cm watercolour, pencil, collage and Silver MSA87


She will take her investigations to extraordinary lengths sending a little drawing back to the place where it was made or where the idea for it originated.  She hopes that someone will take the drawing in, almost like a stray, and by doing so, by treasuring it, give it an intrinsic worth which is part of its own history.  She doesn’t mind that she has no idea what happens to these little works.

Wax casts

Meryl Ainslie dares us to reconsider notions of value in art.  Her pieces of silver are her currency, prized according to weight and the current value of raw silver. She takes something of apparently no value and imbues it with worth, by creating something beautiful out of it. By casting it in a precious metal, she turns it into something which can be judged by a different set of criteria. However her little drawings are just as beautiful and also have a value, despite the fact that they are made using one of the cheapest materials available. Through the intervention of an artist, these works  become objects of desire, a legacy, a history of experiences, hers and someone else’s, to pass on.

Silver Cast Broom Stitching

Best Boys Kerala Boats 10.5 X 25cm Etching and Silver MSA16A  1/25. Edition of 10

©  Fiona Robinson 2011


16 November – 16 December 2011

 Meryl Ainslie – Silver sculpture, drawings and etchings

Susan Preston – Paintings and works on paper

Susan Preston Drawing

 Boat Detail III 16 x 13.5cm, graphite on prepared paper

Scroll down for an earlier piece on Susan Preston published September 2010

‘Re-collect’ reunites two artists in an exhibition of 100+ pieces of silver sculpture, drawing, painting and etching. Meryl Ainslie and Susan Preston crossed paths in India, and here they co-inhabit the gallery space with certain individuality and a shared experience.

Exhibition Dates

16 November – 16 December 2011

Open Wed – Friday 10.30 – 3pm plus

‘Special’ open weekend 3 and 4 December 10.30 – 3pm

Other times by appointment

Telephone: 01672 511999

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